NEWS | ECF Study Tour with Kenyan Guests
With the Eco-Corridor Fund (ECF) for the Caucasus in its second phase, new partnerships are emerging, and knowledge transfer networks are being established to share the success and the methods of the programme.
At the end of October, the ECF team welcomed two guests from the Ministry of Water, Sanitation and Irrigation of the Republic of Kenya to Georgia for a one-week ECF Study Tour.
About the ECF Study Tour
Organized by ECF, the tour focused on sharing the methodology and experiences with the Financial Participatory Approach (FPA) and was designed to highlight the specific FPA approach used in the Caucasus, as well as share lessons learned by the people using FPA in the rural communities where ECF is operating in Georgia.
The purpose of the tour was to demonstrate how the FPA functions as a part of the ECF and how the FPA can be used as a tool to enable and support communities to take responsibility for the improvement of their livelihoods within the village community.
Interest in the application of the FPA came from the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) funded Drought Resilience Programme in Northern Kenya which the two Kenyan guests, Mr. Daniel Odero and Mr. Evance Lusi, are working on. The project aims to improve drought resistance in dry regions of Kenya by working directly with local communities to improve water infrastructure and also to improve the diversification of their economic activities. The purpose of the tour was to demonstrate how the FPA functions as a part of the ECF and how the FPA operates as a tool to enable and support communities to take responsibility for the improvement of their livelihoods within the village community.
Overview of the ECF Study Tour
After arriving in Tbilisi on 24. October, the ECF team greeted Mr.Odero and Mr. Lusi
the following day at the ECF office and a presentation by ECF’s Chief Technical Advisor, Jernej Stritih, and the National Coordinator for ECF in Georgia, Rusudan Chochua. The in-depth presentation introduced the methodologies, guidelines and applications of the FPA and also gave the guests a summary of the eco-corridors in the Caucasus where ECF is operating. After a day off to explore Tbilisi, they traveled to the region of Adigeni to meet with the FPA facilitator and visit three village associations to learn more about the FPA In action.
In Akhaltsikhe, they met with Tsira Meskishvili, the head of the NGO Toleranti, who had worked as the facilitator for the FPA process in Adigeni. Toleranti is a local NGO focusing primarily on minority and humanitarian issues. Their experience in working with social change has proven very useful for facilitating the collective learning and strengthening of the rural communities, enabling them to become partners of the ECF.
In the communities of Dertseli, Naminauri, Tsikhisubani they learnt about FPA mobilization and how it was successfully introduced to the communities. The informal and on-site nature of these meetings was beneficial in illustrating the FPA on the ground. Following the successful FPA process, each of the three communities signed a long-term conservation agreement with the WWF, providing the Investment and ten years funding for the activities of the village associations. Based on agreed habitat management plans these include nature conservation as well as improved farming activities such as rotational grazing and increased hay making. In all three communities the leaders of each community organization explained not only what they were doing with regards to nature conservation but also showed them around the farms and shared with them the examples of other activities related to the FPA that benefited the community, such as cattle watering points at remote pastures.
One example of this is the agricultural tractor provided to Naminauri as part of the FPA investment to improve productivity of hay making. “They are very proud of it and are using it also for other purposes,” says Jernej Stritih who led the field tour. “ECF provided the community with hay making equipment, but they bought themselves a plow and are also using it to plow and plant and harvest potatoes. The tractor is an incredible asset and they are really taking care of it.”
After receiving support from other countries, the locals see it as their obligation to share their experience with other people in the world. They took this opportunity to pay it forward.
The locals of the three communities were very eager to share their knowledge and took it as their duty to share their experiences with the FPA and ECF as a whole. “After receiving support from other countries, the locals see it as their obligation to share their experience with other people in the world,” says Stritih. “So, they took this opportunity to pay it forward.”
In addition to experiencing the impacts of the FPA in the villages, the Kenyans were also treated to traditional Georgia hospitality and experienced an authentic Georgia ‘supra’ or dinner. Another highlight of their time in the Western Lesser Caucasus Mountains was seeing snow for the first time, off in the distance on the 2000+ meter peaks.
After spending a night in Akhaltsikhe the party returned to Tbilisi for a few more days of cultural heritage and sightseeing which included visiting important historical sites in Tbilisi. On 31. October, they went on a short field trip to Algeti National Park, just an hour outside of Tbilisi where they were greeted by the park Director, Mr. Avtandil Mchedlidze and met with park staff and park rangers and were guided on a short trail walk in the National Park. The following day they met with GOPA’s Senior Project Manager, Christian Tunk, in Tbilisi for dinner before departing on 1. November for Nairobi, and warmer weather.
Caucasus and Kenya Similarities
A key question related to the purpose and scope of the study tour was whether the FPA, as a tool, could be implemented in two very different regions of the world.
“Although there was some skepticism about whether you could compare Georgia to Kenya, we found quite some similarities,” explained Stritih. In both regions people subsist predominantly from animal husbandry with sheep, goats, cows, and in Kenya also camels. And both regions deal with prolonged time periods where food for these grazing animals becomes scarce or non-existent. “In Kenya the big concern is the drought and in Georgia it is the winter,” says Stritih. “Animals can’t go to pasture and so in both regions locals must prepare hay to get though these times – the logic of how things work and how the FPA can be applied is quite similar.”
Animals can’t go to pasture and so in both regions locals must prepare hay to get though these times – the logic of how things work and how the FPA can be applied is quite similar.
Although the FPA was the purpose of the study tour, the ECF team later discovered that the concept of long-term conservation agreements (CAs) was also of interest and applicable to the Kenyans. “In our case CAs are about nature conservation objections but theirs would be about the management of equipment (water pumps etc.) related to their project. Empowering the local community and respecting them and believing that they can manage projects themselves was a strategy that they found inspiring.”
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The ECF Study Tour proved to be an opportunity for two regions, worlds apart to connect over the practices of the FPA, illustrating the diverse applications of this methodology and its ability to transcend borders.
“They shared with us all we needed to learn about the usefulness and strength of FPA as a tool for community mobilization and active participation in project implementation and management,” reflected Mr.Odero in a thank you email following the trip. “The use of this tool has no boundaries.”